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Locally Transmitted COVID-19 Cases Drop Back into Single Digits

#Hot Issues of the Week l 2020-05-17



After a turbulent week that saw the number of COVID-19 cases reported in South Korea spike following reports of the Itaewon cluster last week, the number of locally transmitted cases fell back below ten on Friday.

In total, nearly 46-thousand people have been tested for COVID-19 related to the Itaewon cluster outbreak and 161 have tested positive.

Son Young-rae, a Health Ministry spokesperson, unveiled the latest tally during a briefing by the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters on Saturday.

He said that the total number of Itaewon-linked infections stands at 161 and the outbreak is spreading to various other facilities within local communities.

Son added that despite expanded testing, new daily infections are numbering around 30, without a sharp surge in the spread.

Son offered assurance to those who have still not been tested, saying there is no risk of identity exposure as testing guidelines have been revised to protect anonymity.

Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo on Saturday said the government will discuss using IT systems to compile visitor logs at business establishments in efforts to better contain the coronavirus.

Park said a delay in verifying visitors to Itaewon clubs due caused by inaccuracies in existing logs was the main reason the latest cluster outbreak ended up spreading so far.

Meanwhile the Education Ministry is running coronavirus tests on teachers and faculty members who visited Seoul's Itaewon area during the recent holiday from late April to early May. The Defense Ministry is also looking into soldiers who may have visited the area.

Despite the recent spike in cases, the government is holding talks with other countries to explore ways to expand movement and exchanges across borders which have been restricted due to the pandemic. 

In the Saturday briefing, Health Ministry spokesman Son discussed a conference call held Friday between the health ministers of Korea, China and Japan.

He said allowing the movement of essential personnel requires government-wide talks and as a proposal has been made, follow-up talks will continue between health ministers and through diplomatic channels.

During Friday's virtual meeting on COVID-19 cooperation, the three sides shared policy measures and discussed quarantine in the post-coronavirus era.

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